Johnes, Thomas (DNB00)

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JOHNES, THOMAS (1748–1816), translator of Froissart, born at Ludlow, Shropshire, in 1748, belonged to an old Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire family, being the eldest son of Thomas Johnes of Llanvairclydogau and Croft Castle, Herefordshire, M.P. for Radnorshire, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Knight of Croft Castle. He was educated at Shrewsbury, Eton, and Jesus College, Oxford. After a tour in Europe he was elected in 1774 M.P. for the borough of Cardigan, being declared the sitting member on petition. He was elected for Radnorshire in 1780, 1784, 1790, and for Cardiganshire in 1796, 1802, 1806, 1807, and 1812. He supported Fox's India Bill in 1784, and frequently acted with him in public affairs. Johnes was also lord-lieutenant of Cardiganshire, colonel of the Cardigan militia, and auditor for life of the land revenue in Wales. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1800. He came to live at his estate of Hafodychtryd (or Hafod), Cardiganshire, in 1783; he removed the peasantry from miserable huts to comfortable cottages, and employed many of them in planting the neighbouring wastes and mountains. The number of trees planted from 1796 to 1801 was 2,065,000, and from that period the plantations were increased by nearly 200,000 trees annually. He formed a society for the improvement of agriculture in the neighbourhood, and brought Scottish farmers to settle there. He was the writer of ‘A Cardiganshire Landlord's Advice to his Tenants’ (Hafod Press, 1800). The mansion of Hafod was built in 1785 by Johnes from the designs in ‘gothic’ style of Thomas Baldwin of Bath. A view of it (1796) is given in Smith's ‘Tour to Hafod’ (pl. i.), and one from a drawing by Britton is engraved on the title-page of Johnes's ‘Froissart's Chronicles,’ vol. i., 1803. ‘A Catalogue of the Hafod Library’ was drawn up by him, and printed at Hafod in 1806–7; part i. describes the Pesaro library, which had been acquired by Johnes. The house was accidentally burnt on 13 March 1807, when Johnes's Welsh manuscripts and editions of Froissart, with nearly the whole of his valuable library and several paintings and works of art, were destroyed (Nichols, Lit. Illustr. viii. 285). They were insured for 30,000l., but this sum did not cover the loss. Johnes rebuilt the house, and formed another library. The beautiful grounds of Hafod are described, with coloured illustrations, in Sir J. E. Smith's ‘Tour to Hafod,’ 1810. During the latter years of his life Johnes continued his improvements for the public benefit, making roads and bridges.

Johnes set up a private press in a cottage among the hills about a mile and half from his house at Hafod, and thence he issued some of his best-known works (Timperley, Encycl. of Lit. and Typogr. Anecd. p. 298). In 1801 appeared his translation of Sainte-Palaye's ‘Life of Froissart.’ In 1803–5 he published his well-known translation of ‘Froissart's Chronicles’ ‘at the Hafod Press, by James Henderson,’ 4to (reviewed by Sir W. Scott in ‘Edinburgh Review,’ v. 347 ff.; other editions in 1805, 1808, 1839, 1847, 1848, 1849). He also translated and published ‘Memoirs of … de Joinville,’ Hafod, 1807, 4to; ‘The Travels of Bertrandon de la Brocquière … to Palestine,’ Hafod, 1807, 8vo; ‘The Chronicles of Monstrelet,’ Hafod, 1809, 4to (also 1810 and 1840). In the winter of 1814 he had a serious illness, and went to stay at a house purchased by him in Devonshire. He died at Langstone Cliff Cottage, near Dawlish, on 23 April 1816, in his sixty-eighth year. He was buried at Eglwys Newydd (Hafod), in the church which he had built in 1803 at his own expense from a design by Wyatt. Johnes married, first, Maria Burgh of Monmouthshire; secondly, his cousin Jane, daughter of John Johnes of Dolaucothy. His only daughter, Maria Anne, died before her father, unmarried. Johnes's Welsh estate was long in chancery after his death. In 1833 it was sold to the Duke of Newcastle for 70,000l.

[Burke's Hist. of the Landed Gentry or Commoners, 1838, iv. 61, ‘Johnes of Dolecothy;’ Burke's Dict. of the Landed Gentry, 1868, p. 785; Smith's Tour to Hafod; R. Williams's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Welshmen; Gent. Mag. 1816, vol. lxxxvi. pt. i. pp. 469, 563, 564; Allibone's Dict.; Rose's Biog. Dict.; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. vii. 175, viii. 285, 303; Lewis's Topogr. Dict. of Wales, s. v. ‘Eglwys Newydd;’ Gorton's Topogr. Dict. vol. ii. s. v. ‘Hafod;’ Rowlands's Cambrian Bibliography; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. W.